Sometimes, Yue Dingtang felt that only when Ling Shu was around did it truly feel like home.
Yue Chunxiao, his third sister, had understood this even earlier than he did.
That was why she loved having Ling Shu over for meals at their home, even if it was just for casual conversation and meaningless chatter in the eyes of the three Yue brothers.
Compared to them, Ling Shu was more like a real brother to Yue Chunxiao.
But these words couldn't be said in front of Ling Shu, or else he would become even more arrogant and conceited.
"Ling Shu is causing too much trouble, I'll take him back and give him a good lesson."
Ironically, the person accompanying him stood at the door, hearing the commotion and looking uneasy, apologizing repeatedly.
"It's alright, brother-in-law, no need to be so formal. Just treat this as your own home and come in."
Yue Dingtang nodded in greeting and led the person inside.
Zhou Sa couldn't tell if Yue Dingtang was being polite or genuinely courteous.
He knew that Ling Shu was working with Yue Dingtang and that they were old classmates.
However, their friendship was a thing of the past.
Zhou Sa had been in the officialdom for too long and had seen too much of the fickleness of human relationships. It was common to be polite in front of others and mock them behind their backs. People who didn't have two faces couldn't survive in this world.
Although Ling Shu was just a small assistant, he had to accept the fact that he had to look up to his old classmate who used to be his equal.
As Zhou Sa stood outside the door and heard the commotion inside, he couldn't help but feel uneasy. He thought to himself that this younger brother-in-law really didn't treat himself as an outsider.
Laughter gradually died down as Yue Dingtang and his companions entered the room.
Uncle Zhou still had a smile on his face, indicating that he was in a good mood.
"Fourth Young Master has returned, and the food is ready... Who is this?"
He noticed that Ling Shu was already preparing to slip upstairs.
"Ling Shu!" Zhou Sa shouted to stop him.
Ling Shu sighed inwardly, realizing that his injury had slowed him down, and reluctantly stopped.
"Brother-in-law," Zhou Sa's face darkened.
"When did you come back? How can you just stay here at Mr. Yue's house? Come with me now. Your sister has been talking about you every day, not knowing that you've already returned to Shanghai!"
Ling Shu hadn't thought of an excuse yet, but Yue Dingtang spoke up first.
"Ling Shu was injured on this trip and didn't want Ling Yao to worry. I told him to fully recover before returning."
Zhou Sa was taken aback and looked Ling Shu up and down. "Where are you injured? Is it serious? Why do you look so thin?"
Ling Shu laughed, "It's just a leg injury, nothing serious. You noticed I lost weight too? My sister would definitely notice, so for the sake of my life, brother-in-law, don't let me go home so soon!"
Zhou Sa forced a smile, glanced at Yue Dingtang, and hesitated to speak. It seemed inappropriate to discuss family matters in someone else's home.
Yue Dingtang said, "Since you're here, why don't we all sit down and finish the meal before going back? As for Ling Shu, he can stay here for a few more days. It's convenient for him to come to work with me during the day."
Heaven and earth can testify that Young Master Ling doesn't need to work. He's just lounging around at home like a salted fish, waiting to die.
Old Yue, oh Old Yue, you're really loyal at critical moments.
Behind Zhou Sa's back, Ling Shu gave Yue Dingtang a thumbs up.
Yue Dingtang remained calm and acted as if he hadn't seen anything.
In the face of the Yue family, Zhou Sa was still very cautious and repeatedly waved his hands when he heard their words.
"No, no, you guys eat, you guys eat! Ling Shu's sister has already cooked dinner at home and is waiting for me. I have to hurry back, otherwise the food will get cold and she'll have to reheat it. I'll take my leave now!"
Ling Shu called out to him, chuckling and saying nothing.
But Zhou Sa knew what he was hinting at.
"Don't worry, I won't tell your sister, but you have to come back soon. I can't last two days. If your sister finds out, we'll both be in trouble!"
One party was restless, forcing the other to stay, but the other didn't enjoy the meal.
Yue Dingtang said, "Let me walk you out."
Zhou Sa hurriedly said, "No need, Mr. Yue, please stay. I'll go by myself!" As he spoke, he stepped back and almost tripped over the threshold.
The old housekeeper stepped forward to help and personally escorted him to the front door.
Zhou Sa was trembling with fear, afraid that he would step on something and offend the Yue family.
He treated Yue Dingtang with the same respect as he would his boss, or even more politely.
On the other hand, Ling Shu, who was alone, was more carefree and casual.
All the deference shown to Yue Dingtang was either to provoke him or to have ulterior motives - Yue Dingtang had long seen through the true face of Ling Shu.
But there was no comparison.
It was said that Zhou Sa came from a small rural family and relied solely on his own efforts to study. With the help and appreciation of a nobleman, he was able to enter the ranks of municipal civil servants.
Even Yue Dingtang sometimes felt that Ling Yao marrying Zhou Sa was a bit unfair.
"I have to go back in a couple of days," Ling Shu suddenly said while they were eating steamed perch.
Yue Dingtang glanced at him. "Aren't you afraid of your sister?"
Ling Shu replied, "If I don't go back, who will save my brother-in-law? Didn't you see how anxious he was just now? He must have had a fight with my sister again!"
Yue Dingtang said, "Ling Yao seems reasonable."
But when she's with him and Zhou Sa, she acts like a demon.
Ling Shu sighed, "That's because it's you. She's reasonable with outsiders. Do you expect her to bare her fangs and claws?"
Yue Dingtang paused with his chopsticks and asked nonchalantly, "How can I make her treat me like family?"
Ling Shu was puzzled by the question, but when he met Yue Dingtang's gaze, he suddenly remembered everything that happened in the secret passage that night.
In the darkness, they were close and intimate, with passion and ambiguity. After a moment, Ling Shu lowered his head and took a sip of soup.
"Uncle Zhou, this soup is really fresh."
Ha, he's pretending to be foolish again.
Yue Dingtang silently sneered in his heart.
I want to see how long you can keep up the act.
Uncle Zhou was still happily suggesting to make more soup tomorrow when Yue Dingtang took over the conversation.
"No need to trouble yourself, Uncle Zhou. He's leaving tonight."
Uncle Zhou exclaimed, "Ah? No need to rush like this."
Ling Shu also looked innocent, "No need to rush like this?"
Yue Dingtang remained unmoved, "Your brother-in-law is so timid, it's hard to guarantee that he won't slip up. If your sister finds out you came back without going home first, you'll only be waiting for a more violent storm. It's better to suffer a short pain than a long one, and it's better to die early than late. You should go back first, let her see you, and if you want to come back in a few days, it's not too late."
Ling Shu thought to himself that he was afraid of going back and not coming out alive.
This Old Yue is so cruel and heartless, he just praised him for nothing.
What a stingy person, he can go drink cold water.
"Uncle Zhou, if my sister punishes me and doesn't let me eat, will you come and bring me food?"
He looked pitiful, like a prisoner about to go to jail.
The old housekeeper showed his pity and said, "Don't worry, Master Ling, tomorrow I will have the driver bring you some food."
These two seemed like they were saying goodbye forever, and Yue Dingtang couldn't bear to watch.
"Uncle Zhou, have the driver take him back later. I'm going back to my room to read."
"Okay, I understand."
The old housekeeper agreed, and as Yue Dingtang went upstairs, he whispered to Ling Shu, "Did you make Fourth Young Master angry again?"
Ling Shu protested, "How could I make him angry? He's still holding onto my salary!"
The old housekeeper lightly patted his head. "Fourth Young Master spoils you too much, don't be naughty."
In fact, Ling Shu also felt that he should go back and check on Ling Yao.
As long as Ling Yao doesn't scold him, he still misses his sister.
After all, after their parents passed away, they only had each other to rely on.
He left home for eight years.
If it weren't for Ling Yao's soft shoulders carrying the heavy burden and finding a brother-in-law for herself, perhaps when Ling Shu returned, there would be another grave beside their parents.
But an hour later, he realized that all of these thoughts were unnecessary.
"Tell me, what kind of shady business did you do in the northeast? Why did you get injured and become so thin?"
"Don't bring up Yue Dingtang. Would he jump around like you all day? If you have the ability, become a university professor like him, and I won't scold you!
"I'm telling you, this time you come back, don't even think about going out again. Starting tomorrow, after work, you must come straight home and behave yourself. Principal Sun's daughter next door is two years younger than you. She just graduated from high school this year. Tomorrow, you two will meet and if it's suitable, we'll arrange the marriage."
"Did you hear me?"
"Ouch, ouch, ouch! Let go...oh, my leg injury is acting up again!"
Ling Yao was startled and quickly released the hand that was pinching his ear.
"What's wrong? Let me take a look. Is it serious?"
Ling Shu had a worried look on his face. "I was shot by a bullet. It's a gunshot wound. Do you think it's serious?"
"Don't scare me. Weren't you going to pay your respects to the Guan family? How did you get shot?"
"I'm not lying to you!"
Ling Shu sighed and made up a story about their trip to Northeast China, successfully scaring Ling Yao.
"Hey, how's your leg? Let's go to the hospital and have a look. We can't let a perfectly good leg develop any complications!"
Ling Yao hurriedly went to change his clothes.
Ling Shu quickly held her down.
"The Yue family has a doctor who has already checked me out. I just need to go back in a few days to change the medicine. Sister, I missed you, so I came back to see you. Where's your husband?"
Ling Yao's heart softened as she touched his head.
"You're all grown up, yet you still act like a child! Your brother-in-law hasn't come back yet."
Ling Shu: ???
Why did he rush back then, only to fall into a trap?
Better to die as a poor Taoist than as a treacherous friend.
Without hesitation, Ling Shu chose to betray his brother-in-law and shift the blame.
"How is that possible? Old Yue met my brother-in-law on his way home. I had dinner and changed my medicine at Yue's house before coming back. It must have been two or three hours. Why hasn't my brother-in-law come back yet?"
Ling Yao's face changed dramatically, as if a storm was brewing.
Just then, they heard the sound of keys turning outside.
The door was pushed open from the outside, and Zhou Sa appeared in front of them.
"Ling Shu, you're back? Why are you looking at me like that, Ah Yao?" Zhou Sa asked, sensing the tension.
Feeling the situation was not in his favor, Ling Shu turned and slipped away.
Behind him, Ling Yao's voice erupted like a volcano.
"Do you know what time it is now, Zhou Sa?"
Ling Yao quickly made her escape, following the old adage that discretion is the better part of valor.
Outside the door, their voices grew fainter and fainter until they could no longer be heard.
Ling Shu wanted to go out and mediate, but he was afraid of getting caught in the crossfire.
He crouched at the door, listening intently for a while before finally placing his hand on the doorknob.
To his surprise, the door was suddenly opened from the outside, causing him to fall to the ground.
Ling Yao didn't even mention his eavesdropping, nor did she scold him.
Ling Shu didn't look up at first, but when he did, he saw Ling Yao sitting on the edge of the bed, tears glistening in her eyes.
He was taken aback by this sudden change in her demeanor.
This was the bold and fearless Ling Yao he knew.
"Sis, what's wrong? Don't scare me like that! Maybe your husband had urgent business to attend to and couldn't come home on time. Don't fight over it. If there's a problem, talk it out. It's all my fault. I was afraid you'd scold me, so I tried to shift the blame onto your husband!"
"It's none of your business!" Ling Yao wiped her eyes fiercely.
"Ling Shu, your brother-in-law has someone else outside."